Will The FCC Force Radio Stations To Prove Their Indie Cred?

radio.jpgThe FCC is looking to settle a recent investigation into radio payola by forcing station programmers to stock their shelves with indie music:

While details of the Enforcement Bureau’s proposal were sketchy, sources said that radio station groups would be required to set aside a certain amount of airtime for music produced independently. The radio groups also would agree to a code of conduct and an education program, the sources said. As part of the deal, the radio broadcasters would not admit to any wrongdoing.

“There are two components,” one source said. “There’s an education component for people in the industry, where it is spelled out that you can do this and not do that, and there is a code of conduct. Then there is the airtime component.”

It was unclear how the airtime deal would work and what would qualify as “independently produced” music, but the sources said that some of the commissioners are concerned about the major labels’ ability to dominate the airwaves.

Of course, this idea raises a lot of questions–what music counts as “independently produced,” whether this blustering is just a way for the FCC commissioners to get an advance of the new Shins record. We suspect that any mandated indie music will be relegated to the low-reach, early-Sunday-morning slots that are normally reserved for religious shows and sops to the “public affairs” crowd, and asking your local radio station to spin an Arcade Fire song during its all-request lunch hour will be met with just as much stunned silence as it is now.

FCC proposal could end payola probe [Hollywood Reporter, via Gerard Vs. Bear ]

  • PengIn

    I, for one, would welcome the Lionel Washington Indie Half-Half Hour. What I think we’ll get instead is the occasional inclusion of of an unsigned Nickleback clone.

  • deusdiabolus

    Somebody needs to point them to sites like Jamendo, CDBaby and Soundclick. The netlabels archive on archive.org would also be a good source of worthwhile music.

  • Deadly Tango

    Disclosure of payola and paid programming certainly meets the “regulation in the public interest” standard set out in the Communications Act. Requiring the “indie-hour,” however, will immediately result in a First Amendment challenge by ClearChannel and NAB and Entercom and all the other mass media conglomerates.

    Since the late 1980s, broadcast news programs have been excused from following the “Fairness Doctrine” (allowing equal time for rebuttals to editorial content and requiring presentation of multiple viewpoints) — it’s on the books but unenforceable as a result of unfinished litigation. If a requirement for truly balanced news coverage is vulnerable to First Amendment challenge (as violating the rights of broadcasters), an official “indie-hour” can’t possibly survive.

    At the same time, I look forward to the incomprehensible FCC definition of an indie label. It will probably be just as user-friendly as the DMCA webcasting regs… because the “sound recording complement” is such a common concept. I think the UK already has a definition (along with requiring that an “EP” have no more than 4 tracks) that might be a jumping off point, but I don’t have the time to search it right now.

    In the end, I can’t see a lot of action coming out of this proposal (if it ever takes effect) other than even MORE vanity labels rolling up to the major behemoths.

  • Mike Barthel

    If, as seems to be implied in the story, they mean “independent” as in “not on a major label,” there’s lots of indie promo money (payola) flowing to stations from indies, too. There are lots of independent hip-hop and rock labels with big acts and money to spend.